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April 15, 2017

[Bumped] The law of trespass, which is common throughout the civilised world is at the basis of this hoo-hah.


Hard cases make bad law. The law of trespass is an essential safeguard for us all.
The doctor had no right to refuse to leave and the ejection was lawful. If more force than necessary was applied, then that is a case for assault and battery, causing actual or grievous bodily harm. But the court will have to take into account the resistance of the doctor during the ejection, as he had no right of refusal to leave.
Having said all that, the damage to the reputation of the airline in provoking this incident through crass management practices will be costly and it serves them right. But don't knock the law of trespass if you own a dwelling or a cabbage patch. Some asshole might decide to occupy it and then you need the law to undecide him. Comment here by Posted by: Frank P

Posted by gerardvanderleun at April 15, 2017 11:06 AM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

Your Say

Does it really require a law for you to understand that you do not get to steal my life, my ultimate property?

Almost everyone it seems has been trained to believe that morality is established by laws.

If something is NOT illegal it must be OK to do, right?

Because people are versatile creatures this requires politicians to enact more and more laws in an effort to force people to practice proper behavior.

It's a never ending journey.

Maybe this is why everything now is the way it is.

My ol' gray haired Pappy used to say, "Son, locks is for honest crooks. A Colt .45 is for all the rest."

Posted by: ghostsniper at April 13, 2017 1:06 PM

OK ghost, I may be missing your point here. I get that morality must be the basis of laws, but how does that apply in this case? The law of trespass is a very moral law, so are you saying that someone's life should at no time be in jeopardy if they trespass and refuse to leave? How does that square with the "honest crooks, Colt .45" statement, which implies that if someone refuses to abide by your property rights, you should be able to kill them?
Or is it just that you have to do the killing yourself, and the police should not be able to do it for you?
Or am I missing the entire point of your comment? I've been known to do that from time to time, so I'd be happy for some clarification.

Posted by: TheHammerToss at April 13, 2017 2:19 PM

The irony is that using the legal definition of the word, United grossly trespassed against the individual.


Posted by: Ten at April 13, 2017 2:39 PM

Once upon a time, a contract meant something. One party contracted with another party for something: in this case, conveyance. This customer bought a ticket to get to his destination via an airline offering that service.

Once upon a time the contract had terms that each party had to abide by, or the contract was broken and civil damages could be sought. If anyone still thinks that applies today, they should get out more. Contracts are written to ensure that companies don't have any legal obligations at all, and that customers have no legal recourse at all.

Here we have a man who sought conveyance: he legally purchased a ticket on an aircraft, to take him to his destination. He legally passed through the idiocy known as "security" and boarded that aircraft. He legally occupied his seat, expecting that the airline would comply with its obligation to deliver him safely to his destination. He committed no crime nor violated any custom, but occupied his seat peacefully.

Surprise! The "contract" (according to the small print so beloved by lawyers) says that the airline can do anything at all that the airline desires to do, for any reason or none, and that the customer has no contractual rights whatsoever!

Thus the airline is within its legal rights to haul the would-be passenger out by his heels, and the passenger isn't even entitled to a refund. Apparently the assault and battery was free, provided by the Chicago mob, sorry I meant "police." (Gives a whole new meaning to "Fly the friendly skies of United," doesn't it.)

If anyone was wondering what a contract is good for, now you know: it's for the good of the company, not you. You don't count!

Posted by: Eskyman at April 13, 2017 3:11 PM

Eskyman: Can't disagree with a word of that. I would just add "caveat emptor"

Posted by: Frank P at April 13, 2017 4:44 PM

Trespass? Better read the .fed Common Carrier code. The coming trial should expose UA for what it is. That being a criminal operation. My opinion only of course.

I was employed at SFO and have a fair bit of knowledge in regards to the big red, white & blue cattle transporting operation.

Posted by: Terry at April 13, 2017 6:58 PM


I think not.

The airline you may recall SOLD HIM A SEAT. A right to be on the plane and an expectation of arrival at the agreed upon destination at the agreed upon time.

Not some other destination, not some future time NOT agreed upon.


Only an idiot or airline lawyer would make that argument. Yes, I repeat myself.

Posted by: itor at April 13, 2017 7:33 PM

TO live outside the law you must be honest.
I know you always say that you agree.

Posted by: pbird at April 13, 2017 11:03 PM

Ghost can (and probably will) reply for himself, but I believe his father's saying had to do with dealing with bad people. No shooting someone kid that cuts the corner across your lawn.

Almost all contracts have weasel clauses that protect the company issuing services or products. All the proposals I send to clients include plenty of weasel clauses as do the purchase orders I get when I win that business. Otherwise, a single mistake could put the company I work for out of business, which includes the ~250 people that work there as well as repercussions to all the other contracts that the company intends to honor.

It was unfortunate that Asian dude was asked to get off the plane, but that is not much different than being outside the plane and being told you are getting bumped. If a new law forces airline to not bump passengers, ever, then good for the public right? Probably not as the cost of flying will then go up to cover the passengers who do not show up for their flight.

For all of you that want to cheer on the demise of a company because you feel it is evil big business regime, just remember that anyone who has a 401K account probably has mutual funds within it that are invested in the airline industry. Or evil oil, or coal or firearms, pick whatever evil industry you hate. Good people work in those industries and want to earn a decent living for their families.

UAL could have handled it different and probably will in the future. The actions of Asian dude are going to give all kinds of future passengers the idea that they can now show their ass and be disruptive with flight crews. Rewarding bad behavior only begets more of the same.

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at April 14, 2017 7:00 AM

Having already defended the cops if not United in this forum, I now have to ask..

Does my landlord have the right to drag me out of my apartment at whim, if I have signed and am currently in no way in arrears to my lease? I believe by law he most certainly does not, most assuredly not because "someone more important" might need a room for a night.

So this post does not hold up. Bumping outside the aircraft might even equally qualify, but I am guessing that has been litigated at some point. But dragging him off the plane just.... because? I hardly think so.

Posted by: Andrew X at April 14, 2017 10:05 AM

Hi Snakepit,
What you say may be correct, but it's a bit of a strawman. There is a big gap between a kid cutting across the lawn and a bad man. If you own a piece of property and ask someone to leave, and they do, the law of trespass isn't invoked. If they decline to leave, now you have a problem. Are they a bad man yet? If you pull out your Colt .45 and order them to leave and they don't, are they now a bad man? If instead, you call the sheriff and ask for help removing them, and they won't comply with the sheriff, are they now a bad man? If the sheriff uses non-lethal force to remove them at that point, does the sheriff suddenly become a bad man? If instead, you're back with your Colt .45, the trespasser hasn't left, is the trespasser enough of a bad man that you can shoot them down, or do you become the bad man now?
All of that was really my point. In my mind, the law of trespass really goes straight to the heart of the function of property rights and the validity of the concept of rule of law.
I'm not saying that United was correct in their invocation of that law of trespass, and I believe they should suffer mightily from the reputational damage that resulted. However, I don't think they were outside of their legal rights in any fundamental way, when they had that man removed from the aircraft. Any dispute should have been solved in court, not by the man having a fit.

Posted by: TheHammerToss at April 14, 2017 11:07 AM

Nicely stated points and opinion. Yes, many varying degrees of what to do in what situation. For me, lethal force would be applied when me or my family is in perceived danger. Someone kicking in my door in the middle of the night is the opposite extreme of the neighbor kid walking through my yard, although both are effectively trespassing.

I appreciate good debate and others' insight. Have a happy Easter Weekend!

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at April 14, 2017 12:35 PM

Armpit Pliskin has been corrected but prefers to speak out his- prefers to make stuff up based on conjecture and preference. Once again, the facts:

Customer had a legally binding service to be provided. Customer was boarded and seated and became a passenger under the terms.

Airline had no reservation for sudden deadheading crew when it elected to bump paying passenger with valid reservation and contracted protections to receive services promised.

Airport security - not the rightist fetish "law enforcement" - did indeed bump the guy, rendering him unconscious and per council, relieving him of two teeth, an unbroken nose, and a previously un-concussed skull.

Salient points: There is no bullshit "law of trespass" here, even given the presumed interpretation thereof around these parts by said dumb rightists. The words reservation, paying, and passenger have a distinctly different meaning than, for example, deadheading crew, spur of the moment relocation, and airline's bottom line. The words 'law enforcement' also have no bearing - as any constable on patrol shall inform you - although the words civil and matter absolutely do have context. This is simply another failure of corporate statist-sucking slave rightist speculation on the matter, although I especially dug Armchair Arkansas Snakeskin's flight of relativistic fancy where you, slave, had better reconsider the costs of not facilitating Congress-empowered quasi-official, semi-monopoly, market-wrecking jackboots or else costs rise and by god, us patriots can't be having us no rising costs. Because liberty.

I digress. There is no justification for the rightist folly that protects thugs at the expense of unattractive Asian sensibilities in the elderly eccentric. Nah. Not even when we have a virtual cartel to protect, what with its lobbied consumer-cracking legal entourage and verbose grey areas. Which, as it's about to turn out, matter not in this case anyway.

Ah, rightists. Socialists by another version.

Posted by: Ten at April 14, 2017 12:58 PM

Reading as much as I can about the actual rules and regs that pertain to this case, it seems likely that United had NO right to demand that he give up his seat. The law has accommodated the common practice of overselling, and provides rules for when and how the airline can do this. However, this seems to be a case where the airline just wanted to put their own people in his place---NOT an overselling/overbooking situation. They would have preferred that he leave, but it was unlawful for them to demand it. They called the police to remove him, and the police probably had no idea that they were dealing with a person who was entitled to stay. Finally, once police are involved and give you an order--even if they are mistaken--you really have to comply. Sad.

Posted by: rigeldog at April 14, 2017 5:28 PM

You are a prolific writer with a crafty and colorful use of adjectives to paraphrase others. Easy on the run-on sentences though.

Have a good weekend.

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at April 14, 2017 7:41 PM


and aptly so.

"Almost all contracts have weasel clauses...All the proposals I send to clients include plenty of weasel clauses when I win that business... Otherwise, a single mistake could put the company I work for out of business as well as repercussions to all the other contracts that the company intends to honor."

1) I'm sure you wrote that without recognition of your meaning


2) I would not do business with you or your company

3) Your mistakes and consequences of same should be borne by your company and you, NOT by those who in have entered into an agreement in good faith & full expectation of contract fulfillment.

4) Obviously your company intends to fulfill few, if any contracts to the expectation of the other parties involved.

Posted by: itor at April 14, 2017 10:17 PM

I hope you realize that a contract itself, prior to legal acceptance, is merely a suggestion proposed by the author.

Typically the contract would be given to the attorney for review and revision and submitted back to the author.

On complex projects I've had contract review last more than a month. Today it occurs mostly by way of pdf files sent back and forth via email. The old days were slower with faxes, snail, etc.

A typical home design contract is generally 1 page but a contract for a 600 unit apartment building in a distant state can be more than 100 pages entailing multiple types of files. Again, the initial contract is simply a proposal.

In the subject event the passenger could have amended United's contract and resubmitted. I'm guessing United would simply reject the submission. United has lots of customers that sign contracts without reviewing them so it is their market vantage.

Posted by: ghostsniper at April 15, 2017 4:16 AM

Respectfully, you probably do not have much experience with contracts on complex projects. Many of the purchase orders our company receives have just as many clauses. In the end, both parties are working to minimize unforeseen liabilities. We are doing something right as we have been in business over 30 years.

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at April 15, 2017 6:11 AM

As I recall, overbooking had its genesis when airline bookings were mainly reservations; essentially mutual expressions of interest. Now when full fare is demanded and paid in advance, the resulting mutual exchange of full consideration establishes a contract with no legitimate justification for overbooking. So what if a passenger fails to show up for a flight? The airline is out no money and the airplane is less crowded.

Posted by: Chazz at April 15, 2017 10:03 AM

Unless the connecting flight is late, then the "fault" falls on the airline and they eat the empty seats. This isn't anything new and has been going on forever.

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at April 15, 2017 4:01 PM

I think many have conflated what the airline did and what the Chicago police did. IMHO the airline did nothing wrong. Asking a paying customer to leave can happen for a million very legal reasons. I do not believe that if they had asked him to leave and he did but sued them that he would lose in court. The airline has the right to ask a passenger to leave the plane.
The police were tasked with removing a passenger who had been legally asked to leave. We all agree it would have been better for everyone if this had happened peacefully. But it didn't and that is what should be heard in court. Not what the airlines did but only what the passenger and the police did. I believe I am correct in saying that anywhere in this country, any jurisdiction, that if a policeman asks you to leave and the order is lawful (i.e. the property owner has a right to ask you to leave) that you must leave and if you do not ultimately the policeman will use force to make you leave. In this instance it appears that the policeman did intentionally smash the man's face into the armrest across the aisle. THAT is the legal "wrong" that the courts should decide on. Not what the airlines did and not the actual use of force, but simply that one excessive use of force. IMHO a fair hearing would/should decide that even given the excessive use of force the fault for this lies 100% with the passenger.

I realize it won't go that way and instead will be decided on emotion. Probably in the future this ruling will allow hijackers to sue from prison and collect from the airlines. And therein lies the problem with deciding legal cases on emotion.

Posted by: GoneWithTheWind at April 15, 2017 6:22 PM

One wonders how many times sheer assumptions like Windy's have to be corrected before they stay corrected.

At least once more, apparently...

Posted by: Ten at April 16, 2017 3:04 AM

I challenge you than to try it. Go to a local school and go inside the building and kinda hang out. You will be noticed and asked to leave. Tell them you are going to. They will call the police (in most any large city you may well be talking to a policeman already because they assign them to the school full time). I guarantee you that the police will use force and will remove you even if they have to drag you out. Have someone take video of it and then see if you can sue the school.

But that's different you will say. This paying passenger wasn't trespassing. True, until the airline told him to leave and then he was trespassing. It may not be right (what the airline did) but it was legal and once he refused to leave he was trespassing.

So what is the difference? Emotion! We all can emotionally identify with the passenger but not the school trespasser. Legally; very little difference. Emotionally; big difference. And emotion will rule the day.

Posted by: GoneWithTheWind at April 16, 2017 6:18 PM

Tell all that - whatever it is - to the FARs, moron. Tell it to the lawyers. Tell it to United, who is falling all over themselves with multiple public apologies of the kind I know I've never seen before.

The big difference is there alright, but it is entirely too obvious for even your outsized opinion OF your opinion, Windtard. No wonder you can't see it, staring you in the face like it is.

And it has precisely nothing to do with trespassing. Wow, just wow.

Posted by: Ten at April 17, 2017 12:12 AM

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